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American Apparel opens today in Shadyside
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Erin Walsh
December 17, 2005

A crew of young hipsters stocked a multitude of cotton basics into a two-story retail space Friday on Shadyside's Walnut Street. The activity was shrouded by oversized posters, most notably one featuring a scantily clad young woman, covering the store's windows.

But the mystery ends today as American Apparel opens, bringing to Pittsburgh its fresh, urban mix of colorful basics that is already familiar to shoppers in New York and Los Angeles.

American Apparel sells clothing for men, women, children and dogs. Prices range from $15 to about $60. The merchandise mainly appeals to a young audience of 14- to 30-year-olds, but the company tries to have something that appeals to everyone, says Rudy Mance, who works in retail development for American Apparel.

"My grandpa loves this," he says, referring to a windbreaker that zips into a pouch.

Although the company primarily sells unadorned wardrobe staples, what sets the company apart is its vertically integrated, socially conscious approach to clothing manufacturing—and the fact that everything is made in the United States, in the company's Los Angeles factory.

Being vertically integrated "means that all production, from assembly and advertising to photography is done in-house by employees of the company," says Mathew Swenson, senior fashion media advisor for American Apparel.

Workers at the company's factory receive an average hourly wage of between $12 and $13.75, says Swenson. They also receive benefits such as paid time off, affordable health care, free English as a Second Language classes and on-site masseurs, according to the company's Web site.

American Apparel also differs from the industry standard in that the company eschews celebrity branding, opting instead to use regular people as models.

"It comes down to real people and what they wear," says Swenson. "It's almost Nan Goldin, snap-and-shoot in nature."

Details: American Apparel, 5509-11 Walnut St., Shadyside. 412-622-7021 or